The world isn’t getting enough sleep. In the United States alone, around 50-70 million people are suffering from sleep disorders, be it insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and breathing-related sleep disorders. Furthermore, a study published in the journal Sleep found that nearly one-third of Americans sleep fewer than six hours per night (1). That said, in an effort to use natural remedies to address health concerns, the use of essential oils may help address some of those sleep concerns.
Why isn’t the world sleeping enough?
Sleep is an important and integral part of a healthy lifestyle. That said, a lack of it can be extremely detrimental to one’s overall health. Aside from affecting your functionality the following morning, sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of serious health diseases.
If you’re struggling to get the recommended 7-8 hours a night of quality sleep, you are thus increasing your risk of poor cognitive functioning, depression, anxiety, a weakened immune system, heart disease, and a lowered libido.
Further, the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation can also lead to the use, and often abuse, of prescription sleep aids, with The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealing that around 4% of Americans are currently using prescription sleep aids (2).
In April of this year, the FDA released a mandate that called for attention to the serious or life-threatening risks associated with one of three sedative-hypnotic sleep aids: eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien). Whilst these drugs are used to help maintain sleep, the FDA has linked them to 20 reported deaths, caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia, car accidents, an apparent suicide, and 46 non-fatal but serious injuries, including accidental overdoses, falls and near-drownings.
The potential side effects that come from using sleeping pills include dizziness, constipation, daytime drowsiness, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and dry mouth. Furthermore, aside from the increased risk of addiction, a 2018 study from F1000 Research linked the use of hypnotic sleep aids to a higher risk of early death.
Using sleeping pills may come with harmful side effects. That said, many are seeking out natural alternatives that would help address their sleep concerns.
Essential oils and sleep deprivation
Essential oils are natural oils derived from nature (seeds, fruits, and plants) through distillation or cold pressing and still hold the characteristic scent of the source from which they were extracted. In harnessing the power of scent, essential oils can help address various health concerns, be it seasonal allergies or sleep deprivation.
With each passing day, we’re finding out more about the role that different smells can play in our lives. This is due to the fact that scents are so closely linked to our memories and emotions. How many times have you encountered a smell that took you back to a fond childhood memory? That’s because upon encountering the scent, the cells present in the nose sent information to a region of the brain (the amygdala) that then invoked an emotional reaction and brought up a memory.
Scents help to invoke calm and relaxing responses. Therefore, essential oils can be used as a natural tool to induce better sleep.
7 essential oils for better sleep
According to a systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, essential oils can help to address disrupted sleep (3). That said, below are 8 essential oils that may serve to provide relief from disrupted sleep and poor sleep quality.
1. Bergamot Essential Oil
A citrus fruit native to Italy, bergamot is an essential oil that helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Furthermore, it also prevents the body from releasing adrenaline. By encouraging the release of dopamine and serotonin, bergamot oil works as a sedative calming the body and mind, all while relieving you of stress.
Furthermore, the release of serotonin helps the body to also release the sleep hormone melatonin.
For those battling stress-related insomnia, incorporating bergamot oil into your life may help alleviate your sleep deprivation.
2. Cedarwood Essential Oil
Extracted from tree bark, cedarwood essential oil offers a woody aroma that has relaxing and sedating properties.
Similar to bergamot essential oil, cedarwood promotes the production of serotonin, which then helps the body release melatonin. Additionally, cedarwood essential oil contains the compound cedrol which has been linked to having a sedative effect on the body (4).
3. Frankincense Essential Oil
An essential oil that can be traced back to biblical times, a study discussed at the Proceedings of Annual Meeting of Physiological Society of Japan found that frankincense encourages relaxation by helping to lower stress levels.
4. Jasmine Essential Oil
With its sweet floral scent, jasmine as an essential oil has been proven to help improve one’s sleep quality.
In addition to improved sleep quality, one study found that jasmine essential oils also serve to reduce restless sleep and even improve daytime alertness.
5. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil is a popular, must-have if you’re battling to get some much-needed sleep.
Depression and anxiety can affect one’s quality of sleep, yet various bodies of research have proven lavender’s oil ability to help combat both the effects of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, lavender oil also helps to ease pain thus if any aches or pains are keeping you up, you can use the oil to alleviate the discomfort.
A study published in the journal found that 159 postpartum women experienced improved sleep quality after an eight-week treatment with lavender aromatherapy. Furthermore, separate studies have found that lavender oil helps to prevent restless leg syndrome, improve sleep quality and also increase daytime alertness.
6. Sandalwood Essential Oil
Whilst earthy-scented sandalwood oil has been linked to increased alertness, it also possesses sedative qualities that help to ease anxiety symptoms (5).
7. Valerian Root Oil
Valerian root is not just an essential oil. In fact, it’s also regularly taken as a sleep supplement.
The reason for this is that, according to one study, Valerian root helps to induce healthy sleep quality all whilst improving daytime alertness.
Using essential oils for sleep
As mentioned, your favorite scents are your favorite because they resonate with you. That said, each of us will react to various smells differently. It is up to you to choose a scent that helps you feel relaxed and sleepy. So, you may find yourself experimenting with different scents in order to find the perfect one.
Once you’ve made your choice, you can then use the essential oil in a number of ways.
Diffuser: This is definitely the most common and effective way to use essential oils. Diffusers help to spread the scent of essential oil into the air in the designated room. You can also create your own misting spray. Simply place a few drops of essential oil into a glass spray bottle and mix it with water. You can then spray the concoct all over your pillow and bedroom. For every ½ cup of water, use 4-5 drops of essential oil.
Topical application: Another popular way in which to use essential oils. This is done by applying them to the pressure points on the body. This includes the wrists, behind the ears, and behind the knees. The bottoms of the feet and the back of the neck also apply.
That said, it’s important not to apply an undiluted form of essential oils onto the skin. Doing so can heavily irritate the skin. Thus, one should use essential oils in conjunction with a carrier oil. Popular carrier oils include olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, and grape seed oil.
Precautions with essential oils
While essential oils are natural substances that can provide a number of health benefits, they’re also extremely potent. That said, one should practice caution when using them as they may trigger an allergic reaction.
As mentioned, it’s important to always blend your essential oil of choice with either water or carrier oil. Furthermore, one should never apply the product directly to the skin in excessive amounts. That said, one must also do a patch test before using essential oils. This is done by applying the essential oil mixture to the inside of their arm. Afterward, give yourself 24 hours to see if you experience any irritation or discomfort. In the case that you do, that particular essential oil may not be the one for you.
Lastly, essential oils have yet to be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it’s important that you use essential oils from brands that you can trust.
Natural ways to ensure a restful night
Aside from using essential oils, there are other methods to improve your sleep.
Stimulants refer to substances that provide an energy boost, particularly caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. By stimulating your nervous system, these foods will prevent your body from relaxing and thus affect your sleep cycle.
That said, it is advisable to stay clear of caffeine and other stimulants after 2 p.m. to help protect your ability to fall asleep.
Create the perfect bedroom environment
Optimizing your bedroom environment for a good night’s sleep is another way in which you can ensure quality sleep.
This includes the amount of light you let in, your mattress, and even the color of your bedroom walls. Investing in black-out curtains can help to block out outside light and outside noise and even keep your home warmer by keeping in the heat during the wintertime.
It’s also important to ensure that you’re sleeping on the right mattress as an inappropriate mattress won’t just affect your sleep quality but also your overall health.
Switch off devices
Exposure to light during the day helps to keep us awake and focused and this remains true at night.
Blue light comes from the sun as well as electronic devices that include TVs and smartphones. This blue light affects our circadian rhythm by tricking the brain into thinking that it is still daytime. As a result, the production of melatonin is halted and your quality of sleep is compromised (6).
To combat the effects of blue light, you can download apps such as f.Lux that help to block the blue light on your laptop and you can also enable night shift on your smartphone. Lastly, try not to watch TV for at least two hours before you head to bed. Rather opt for your favorite book.
The bottom line
Essential oils are a great, natural alternative to use to address your insomnia. However, it’s important to immediately consult your doctor if you continue to battle chronic sleep issues. They will then do their best to determine what’s causing your poor sleep and help recommend a treatment option that’s best suited for you.